Saturday, 17 September 2016

Little Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year by Ramsey Beyer [Graphic memoir]


Little Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year 
By Ramsey Beyer
Zest Books, 2013
ISBN 9781936976188

I've been reading quite a lot of graphic novels recently, and really loved this memoir from a small town girl, age 18, off to college in the city for the first time. She's used her real livejournal entries, lists and zines she made at the time, linked with comics telling the story of her life over that first year.
It's not particularly thrilling, but it's not meant to be - it's a pretty honest recounting of what it was like to be an innocent teen who's lived her whole life in a small town, who breaks out and goes to art school away from home, experiencing all the things that will be familiar to anyone who's been in that situation - making new friends when you know no-one, getting brave about going out and exploring, suffering the criticism of teachers at a new level of education, learning to balance the budget and the workload and have a social life as well, and maybe even starting an important relationship.

As a girl from the country myself, I headed to the big smoke - Auckland - in my 6th form to go to boarding school after living on farms in the Waikato for most of my childhood. I wasn't as exposed to the big wide world as Ramsey is, going to college, but I had to do the other stuff - making friends from nothing, going from being one of the smart kids in a small high school, to one of the average ones in my big city school. Learning to find my way around town on my own, and breaking out of the schoolgirl mould to find out who I would be.

So this is probably why I liked this book so much. I love books with everyday detail, the domestic stuff about how a life actually works. I also really enjoyed Ramsey's discovery of feminism and gender issues and vegans, things I had certainly known nothing about before I left home too.




Little Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year by Ramsey Beyer [Graphic memoir]


Little Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year 
By Ramsey Beyer
Zest Books, 2013
ISBN 9781936976188

I've been reading quite a lot of graphic novels recently, and really loved this memoir from a small town girl, age 18, off to college in the city for the first time. She's used her real livejournal entries, lists and zines she made at the time, linked with comics telling the story of her life over that first year.
It's not particularly thrilling, but it's not meant to be - it's a pretty honest recounting of what it was like to be an innocent teen who's lived her whole life in a small town, who breaks out and goes to art school away from home, experiencing all the things that will be familiar to anyone who's been in that situation - making new friends when you know no-one, getting brave about going out and exploring, suffering the criticism of teachers at a new level of education, learning to balance the budget and the workload and have a social life as well, and maybe even starting an important relationship.

As a girl from the country myself, I headed to the big smoke - Auckland - in my 6th form to go to boarding school after living on farms in the Waikato for most of my childhood. I wasn't as exposed to the big wide world as Ramsey is, going to college, but I had to do the other stuff - making friends from nothing, going from being one of the smart kids in a small high school, to one of the average ones in my big city school. Learning to find my way around town on my own, and breaking out of the schoolgirl mould to find out who I would be.

So this is probably why I liked this book so much. I love books with everyday detail, the domestic stuff about how a life actually works. I also really enjoyed Ramsey's discovery of feminism and gender issues and vegans, things I had certainly known nothing about before I left home too.




Thursday, 1 September 2016

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley [Intermediate fiction]

The War that Saved My Life
By Kimberley Brubaker Bradley
Text Publishing
Paperback $21


Set in WW2. Ada (10) lives in London with her cruel mother and little brother. She has an untreated clubfoot for which her mother has restricted her to their flat her whole life, seeing the world through a window. 

When her brother is to be evacuated she decides she has to go with him. They duly escape and are sent to a rural village, and the care of Miss Susan Smith, who at first refuses to take them but there are no other options. She does her best but struggles with Ada, as the girl's past experiences leave her unable to trust and to mistrust any kindness done for her, expecting rejection at every turn. 

Ada's lack of knowledge about the world is astonishing (if a little unbelievable, though I appreciate the idea) - even grass is new to her.  She does have a huge dose of determination, and it is the process of her learning to live and to feel love and joy, which is at the heart of the story. 

Teaching herself to ride Butter, Miss Smith's neglected pony, plays a big part, assisted by the gentle teaching given her by the groomsman from a nearby estate. Ada's progress is matched by Susan Smith's growing love for the children until the dreaded reappearance of their mother, leading to some heart wrenching concluding scenes. 9 - adult.

I loved this to bits, in spite of some improbable moments, and so did others - gaining it best-seller status, a Newbery Honor, and the Schneider Family Award for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.

9+

Classic: The Family from One End Street by Eve Garnett [Junior fiction]

The Family from One End Street 
By Eve Garnett
Puffin Modern Classics, 2010
Introduction by Julia Eccleshare
ISBN 9780141329673
First published by Frederik Muller Ltd in 1937

Eve Garnett (1900-1991) studied art at the Chelsea Polytechnic and the Royal Academy School of Art, which I imagine was no easy road for a young woman in those days. She loved to walk the streets of London drawing from life. Her drawings in this classic novel are sketchy, as though quickly drawn, and capture the skinny, gangly children of the Ruggles family. 

They are a lovely rough-and-tumble family - Mr and Mrs (dustman and laundress) and the seven children, including red-headed twins and baby William. Each chapter focuses on one of the children, and a final glorious adventure for everyone as they travel by train from their village to London to see the parade that Mr Ruggles' brother drives his prize-winning horse and cart in. 

There are disasters and adventures, issues with their constricting clothing and exploits which take children away from home for whole days, without too much worry about where they are, particularly the twins, Jim and John, as they endeavour to prove themselves worthy of joining the Gang of the Black Hand. 

Lovely stories. I hope I can convince some young readers to give it a go because I think they're as enjoyable as ever they were.